A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife – the tipping point that wildlife needs?

Launched today, to coincide with the People’s Walk for Wildlife on Saturday, the manifesto is an urgent call to ‘cease the war on wildlife’ in the UK

Put together by Chris Packham, Patrick Barkham, Robert McFarlane and an impressive array of independent wildlife experts, it’s a provocative – and deliberately controversial – read that captures the issues facing our wildlife today and challenges all of us to take a fresh look at how we can collaborate to do more. 

Lack of nature the new norm

We’re all so familiar with continually quoting the statistics, facts and figures about biodiversity loss (e.g. from the State of Nature Report – 56% of all species are still declining, 97% of wildflower meadows gone, etc.) that they’ve become almost meaningless. 

With the problem of shifting baseline syndrome each new generation thinks that the impoverished world they see is normal.  And as nature slips away, a basic ‘natural literacy’ goes with it. 

Barn owl

© Tony Matthews

Losing touch with nature

A 2017 Wildlife Trusts survey found a third of adults unable to identify a barn owl and two-thirds feeling that they had “lost touch with nature”. 

Chris rightly calls this out, saying “It’s horrifying. Depressing. Disastrous. And yet somehow we have grown to accept this as part of our lives – we’ve normalised the drastic destruction of our wildlife.” 

I share Chris’s sense of impatience and frustration.  Despite all of our efforts, we have not stopped the ecological catastrophe facing us. 

That’s not to undermine or belittle the amazing work we do in the Wildlife Trust. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight we’ve doubled the amount of land that we manage for wildlife in the past 15 years, and we’ve worked with hundreds of landowners to create habitats for wildlife across farms and private estates. We’ve inspired and educated thousands of children and engaged with people from all walks of life

We’ve restored and created habitats and increased species populations. We’ve challenged bad planning proposals and influenced policy. Much of the best remaining biodiversity in our counties is contained in our nature reserves. 

We have slowed down the rate of biodiversity loss but we haven’t reversed it – yet.

Family walking in an urban green space

© Ben Hall - 2020VISION

A People's Manifesto for Wildlife

The People’s Manifesto sparks a more urgent conversation – and it lays out a series of challenges and proposals that we need to absorb and act upon. 

There are 200 ideas ranging from “no-brainers” such as the proposals for education, social inclusion and diversity, the sections on nature-friendly farming and reducing pesticides, ideas for rewilding, urban greening and dog-free nature reserves, through to more controversial subjects like hunting and shooting. 

It’s clear that not everybody will agree 100% with the Manifesto, but there is plenty in there for most people who care about wildlife to get behind. 

'Doing' rather than 'discussing'

I particularly respond to the challenge in the document that “we desperately need more conservationists who are independent thinkers. Who ‘do’ rather than witlessly ‘discuss’.” The Wildlife Trust is at its heart a ‘doing’ organisation – we are experts in delivering practical conservation in our patch, and we are not afraid to think big or think differently. We pride ourselves in working with different partners; we are pragmatic and solutions-focussed.

We ‘do’ far more for wildlife, every day right across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, than perhaps is recognised – but I accept we need to do more.

The timing of this Manifesto is perfect, responding as it does to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and recent announcements about a new Environment Act in 2020. It links beautifully with our own emerging campaign and ideas to develop a local manifesto for a Wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight, being launched at our AGM in October. 

It’s time for us all to step up and take action – we all have a role to play in saving wildlife – and together we can tip the balance in favour of nature’s recovery. 

People's Walk for Wildlife September 2018

Take action

Read the People's Manifesto here.

Join The Wildlife Trusts, other conservation organisations, and thousands of wildlife supporters at the People’s Walk for Wildlife in London, this Saturday 22 September.

And look out for our Wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight campaign in the coming months.